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Belarusian Activist's Fraud Trial Begins

Mikhas Bashura

Mikhas Bashura

MINSK -- A fraud case against Belarusian rights activist Mikhas Bashura has begun in Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Bashura, 35, is an active member of the "Tell the Truth" campaign. He was arrested and charged with fraud in August. Minsk officials say he lied to a bank about his income in 2008 when helping his wife get a mortgage.

Bashura's lawyer, Tamara Sidarenka, told RFE/RL her client does not consider himself guilty of a crime and the incorrect data about his monthly income was an error.

"If he really wanted to cheat the bank, he should have shown that his salary was lower, but he showed that his salary is higher and that was just a mistake," Sidarenka said.

She said she saw Bashura on October 8. He told her he shares a cell with 28 other inmates and they have to sleep in shifts as there are twice as many people as beds.

"Tell the Truth" officials say Bashura's case is politically motivated and connected with his participation in the campaign.

The "Tell the Truth" campaign is organized by the Moving Forward movement, which is led by writer and civic activist Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, a former chairman of the Union of Belarusian Writers. It encourages Belarusians to speak out about social problems.

Nyaklyaeu announced earlier this month that he will be a candidate in the presidential election scheduled for December 19.

"Tell the Truth" press secretary Yuliya Rymasheuskaya told RFE/RL that Bashura's colleagues and friends are in the court room to support him.